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Intermittent Reinforcement

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

The weather has turned warmish, and the frogs that were hibernating in the muck at the bottom of our pond are surfacing again.  Yesterday one of them was actually out of the water, sitting on the little marble block which was a favorite frog sunbathing spot back when there was sun.  It\’s a strange sight to see a frog on the patio in the middle of stick season.  I wonder what other wild critters are finding this warm spell confusing.

One of the confused critters is Bisou.  After there was an ice skin on the pond for several mornings in a row, she had finally stopped dipping her ears in the water, hoping for frogs every single time she went outside.  Yesterday, however, I saw her at the sliding door, and the wag of her tail told me, without my even looking out, that there was a frog on the patio.

So now it\’s started all over again, Bisou dipping her head in the water seventeen times a day, coming inside with dripping ears that need to be dried, wanting to go outside again….That frog on the patio constitutes intermittent reinforcement, which, if I recall correctly, renders a behavior harder to extinguish than 100% positive reinforcement.  Which means that if, when Bisou looks out, sometimes there is a  frog on the patio and sometimes there isn\’t, she\’ll be more persistent in her frog hunting than if there always were a frog on the patio (which might get boring).

In other news, last Halloween night a crime took place which struck horror into the hearts of the inhabitants of our micro-village.  A guy in a gorilla suit went to someone\’s door and stabbed the man who opened it twenty-five times.

Coming on the heels of a robbery at the village store, this event had many of us rethinking our habit of leaving cars and houses unlocked.  But now it appears that the gorilla episode was a hoax perpetrated by the supposed victim, who apparently was so desperate for entertainment (and here it isn\’t even winter yet) that he stabbed himself twenty-five times. 

A cautionary note for those considering moving to our idyllic region:  cabin fever–even in stick season–poses as real a danger in these parts as road-rage and street crime do in places where there are no frogs.

6 Responses

  1. This is not much positive marketing for a move from TN, where the leaves are still golden and the warmth is a high of 50s/low 60s, to VT. But it is a great image of Bisou and her beloved frogs;-)

  2. I love Bisou's little affair with the frogs. How sweet that she would stand there looking out and wagging her tail when she sees one! Luna has an affair of a different sort with the (suicidal?) chipmunk who lives in the terrace stone wall. She sits in perfect stalk mode, with her rear end on the backrest of the sofa, her front feet on the windowsill, and her nose pressed against the glass. Then she waits. And waits. And maybe prays. She does not just wag her tail when she gets the longed-for glimpse of that chipmunk. She becomes nearly hysterical with excitement. And I know if I let her out, she would not just run over to try to kiss it!

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